Using Non-Standard Lighting for a BIG Impact in Your Stage Lighting

Often times what you need to really make your stage pop and to make a big impact during your show isn’t something you’re going to find from a stage lighting manufacturer at all. Besides standard stage lights, we can use THIS to make a big impact on our stage on a budget – it’s the best of both worlds!

There are a couple different types of non standard lighting we can use that will be effective in a small venue. The first of these types are called “practicals.”

What Are Practicals?

A “practical” is plain and simply, just a lamp! It is some kind of ordinary household light, whether it be a lamp or chandelier or something similar, that is brought in for the stage set.

Benefit of Practicals

One of the great benefits of using practicals is that if you use bulbs in them that are dimmable, incandescent or LED, you can plug them into a DMX dimmer or even leave them on all the time and you will get a really interesting look. Your setting will have a bit of a more organic, “homey” look to it.

You also can really change up the look on stage just by adding some lamps to it. Even using simple clip lights, for example in a church setting or something similar, can give a beautiful splashes of light on your backdrop without you having to spend a ton of money. They can be easily plugged into a DMX dimmer and you’re set for your show!

Benefits of Pixels

The other type of non standard lighting that can be used are pixels. Pixels make it really easy to do a DYI lighting set up and really offer the opportunity to be as creative as you want with your show.

One of the coolest things about pixels and why they are so exciting to work with is because pixels can come in any variety of shapes. They are a little different than DMX but nothing to be intimidated by!

Many Types To Choose From

Pixels are controlled by a pixel controller, which is just a box that converts networked DMX to the pixel control protocols. There are many types of pixels but the most popular in the hobbyist world and for small venue use, the name of the main type used is WS-2811. These pixels come in many formats.


Aside from the exciting aspect of having many different types to choose from, you also get the ability to control the color and pattern of every single light! This is also why you are generally going to use network DMX to work with the pixels. The network DMX ultimately affords you the ability to work with much more than the average 170 pixels per DMX cable.

Durability & Cost

When you buy pixels, especially in the Christmas lighting world, you may find that you pay a little more initially for the lighting. Although that might deter you at first, the benefit of spending a little more initially on pixel lighting is that you also get something that is more durable, are reusable, and are reformattable between different set ups. Ultimately this ends up saving you money in the long run. One other great aspect, is that these types of lights are generally waterproof as well, which may or may not matter for your venue, but gives you much more versatility for use should you need it.

Software Options

One thing to pay attention to is that these types of lights do take up a lot of channels and you will typically want to work with some sort of software that will allow you to work with media in order to properly program the lighting.

There are a lot of different software options to use; a couple that are highly recommended are ONYX and ENTTEC ELM. They both work really well with controlling pixels, and the setup and use is fairly simple.


When you are looking at a small venue and you want to create an impact with something new and fresh that will look different, pixels can really bring that uniqueness to your stage. Ultimately you may find that they will bring more impact than buying another LED par or two.

About the author